INTRODUCTION: Running on Faith
Nonprofits with missions based on religious foundations face special challenges, and the fact that they answer to the Higher Power can work both for an against them.
Faith is a powerful thing.It can heal and build, protect, empower, and carry on, no matter how dire the circumstances.
But perhaps the thing that faith does best, the thing it does as a precursor to all of the above, is motivate. It motivates people to do the things that lead to healing and to building, to protection, empowerment and perseverance, even when all seems lost. Faith doesn’t move mountains, but the faithful do.
And that is a very important distinction for faith-based organizations — nonprofits whose missions hinge on a belief in the Higher Power and the need for people to do good works in his/her/its name. If faith alone could build a house, feed a family, save a child or pay the electric bill at a parish church, there would be no need for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Food for the Poor, God’s Love We Deliver, YMCA and YMHA to devote any time or effort to development. My pastor wouldn’t have to pass the basket on Sunday mornings. The White House wouldn’t have an Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, and some of the folks who’ve written articles for this special section wouldn’t have jobs.
Certain factors — scandals that shook the sector to its core; a “separation of church and state” mentality that choked important funding sources; a clarion call for accountability, for example — might have led some organizations to downplay their “God connection” in the past. But the success of films such as The Passion of the Christ and books such as The Purpose-Driven Life and even those ubiquitous “What Would Jesus Do” bracelets are evidence that America is ready to embrace its spirituality again. We rediscovered our faith on Sept. 11, 2001, and it looks like we’re holding on to it.